Is anyone else feeling their productivity start to wane? Maybe on account of the weather, the anxiety of distressing news which 2020 will go down in history for, or just the mundanity of maintaining a rigid routine under lockdown.
If you’ve got an uncompromising to-do list and you’re ready to tackle it, fear not. The antidote for your lethargy might lie in one of these 3 productivity hacks.
Method 1: The Pomodoro Technique
In case you were wondering, ‘pomodoro’ means tomato in Italian. The name is derived from Francesco Cirilo, who developed the technique in the 1980’s and used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer to track intervals of work. The technique is helpful for breaking down tasks into bite-sized chunks for optimal effectiveness.
It centers on the following steps:
- Decide on the task at hand.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes.
- Clear any and all distractions. Now work on the task.
- When the timer goes off, keep track by marking with a checkmark (this completes one pomodoro).
- Take a short break (3-5 minutes).
- Repeat. Once you have 4 checkmarks, take a longer break. This longer break should be around 20 – 30 minutes and consist of non-work related pleasures.
The pomodoro technique requires assessing how long the initial task will take you to complete, so you can roughly map out the number of pomodoro intervals you need. It also has some science to it. Studies have shown that short breaks and diversions can improve our ability to focus on a given task for long periods of time. According to research, the brain is designed to respond to change and concentrating on one task for too long can actually hinder our performance.
Method 2: Pareto Principle
This principle was formulated by another Italian — Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto, though this time in the early 20th century. Also known as the 80/20 rule, the Pareto principle broadly states that 80% of results will come from 20% of the action. He allegedly first observed this in his garden, where 20% of his pea pods contained 80% of the overall peas.
The observation is applicable to various fields, including data science, computer science and business management.
In the realm of time management and productivity the Pareto principle suggests the following technique when looking at your to-do list. Consider that 20% of the items on the list will bear the most importance in terms of yielding results. So if you have a list of 10 items, tackle the 2 most important ones first, dedicating 80% of your effort. The remaining 20% of your energy can be spent on the other 8 items.
By using this strategy you are prioritizing the most important result-yielding items, not only getting them out of the way first but by spending sufficient mental resources on them.
Method 3: Eisenhower Matrix
Another prioritization technique is the Eisenhower Matrix, derived from the former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower had served in the military at high-ranking positions, where he was forced to make a number of difficult and quick decisions. Also called the Urgent-Important Matrix, this sorting system is well suited for a dynamic work environment.
When dealing with a number of projects and tasks simultaneously the grid can serve as a map and quick planning guide. The 4 quadrant matrix ranks tasks based on urgency, requiring you to write down each task in its respective category:
- Do First: Urgent & Important
- Schedule: Not Urgent & Important
- Delegate: Urgent & Not Important
- Don’t Do: Not Urgent & Not Important
Research has demonstrated that the act of writing down your tasks helps aid a clear and focused mind. By clearing any confusion or hesitation when in flow state, you can better concentrate on the task at hand, rather than reinvent your prioritization strategy when you move on to something new.
The Eisenhower Matrix suggests limiting each quadrant to eight tasks, to avoid compiling an ever-growing and anxiety-evoking list. This also helps honour that your time is finite — and overloading yourself with tasks is unrealistic and counterproductive. The system suggests having one combined list for both business and personal matters, so you can avoid inadvertently neglecting one to favour the other.
Hopefully these fatigue-fighting productivity hacks have sparked some drive in you. If you feel inspired to try any of them, let us know how you fare!
The Copy Posse